Award winning guitarist, Gene Ess, draws upon a diverse background to form his unique style. Studying classical piano, Gene’s early years were filled with sounds of Beethoven and Chopin. Originally from Tokyo, Japan and growing up on a U.S. Air Force Base on Okinawa, Gene was simultaneously receiving a mix of influences: he was exposed to the indigenous music of Okinawa and - to the pop and jazz music coming out of the clubs for the American soldiers. All this amounted for an early obsession with music
Gene performed in clubs and festivals all around Okinawa at the early age of 14. After graduating high school Gene left for George Mason University. There, he pursued classical music studies with Larry Snitzler, a prominent concert guitarist who was Andrés Segovia’s disciple and orchestral composition under Dr. Glenn Smith.
Downbeat magazine presented Gene’s performance of Lennox Berkeley’s ‘Theme and Variations’ with the ‘Outstanding Performance Award’ in 1983. Consequently, Gene received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. There he continued his musical quest and was heavily influenced by the music of John Coltrane. After studies with Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos, Gene graduated from Berklee with honors in 1990 and moved to New York in 1991.
From 1991 to 2003, Gene worked with the great drummer Rashied Ali (John Coltrane), touring globally and recording a well-received album No One in Particular. Through this group, Gene met and played with: Carlos Santana, Ravi Coltrane, Matt Garrison, Lonnie Plaxico, Archie Shepp, and Reggie Workman among many others.
Gene’s last album Fractal Attraction was released in May of 2013. The album has received international acclaim and also charted on the national jazz radio chart peaking at #3. The quintet includes some of the best NYC jazz musicians and include: Thana Alexa on voice, David Berkman on piano, Thomson Kneeland on bass, and Gene Jackson on drums. This album received the prestigious “Outstanding Jazz Performance” Award from SESAC in 2014.
The new album, Eternal Monomyth, is slated to be released late April 27, 2015. This set of new music continues Gene’s exploration using voice as an instrument in a chamber group setting. The album is a companion piece to the Fractal Attraction album.
Gene is also a founding member of the Kettle Music collective in NYC. This group presents member concerts, private instruction, group workshops, and look to work with other like-minded international and domestic music collectives in intellectual and artistic exchange.
Over his career, Gene has performed and recorded with many wonderful musicians. Some are: Dave Liebman, Al Foster, Rashied Ali, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Carlos Santana, Archie Shepp, Donny McCaslin, Clarence Penn, Reggie Workman, Tigran Hamasyan, Danilo Perez, and Ravi Coltrane. Gene can be heard in various venues and festivals here in NYC and Europe and Asia. Some are: Blue Note NYC, 55Bar, Iridium, ShapeShifter Lab, iBeam, Red Hook Jazz Festival, Yokohama Jazz Festival, Pit Inn, Antibes Jazz Festival, Strasbourg Jazz Festival, Drom, and Teatro Monumental (Madrid).